Since I’ve been here in Georgia, I’ve noticed how contentious my Black Lives Matter shirt can be. In NYC, multiple people would exclaim their approval of it whenever I left the house with it on. But, here, oh no. I get stares and scoffs from old white men and approving looks from young and old African-Americans. It’s rare that an African-American openly applauds my shirt here in Georgia.
This morning, after church, I stopped by Mary Mac’s Tea Room in downtown Atlanta for lunch with my mother. We sat at the bar and enjoyed southern classics: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter pie. Black southerners have given us amazing food, have they not? Lord have mercy!
In the restaurant, I noticed that all around me were people of various backgrounds, but mostly black and white, segregated. That’s right. While segregation isn’t technically legal anymore in this country, people will still segregate themselves. In the room, there were several full tables with black families and one table with a white family. While eating lunch with my mom, I noticed that a young white lady, probably early 20s, kept glancing over at me. Immediately I ran through the possible reasons for this:
- She sees my shirt and disapproves.
- She thinks my mom and I are being too loud.
- She’s a racist.
I’m not happy to admit this. I think I assume most white southerners are racist, but God has been showing me otherwise. You know, when she came up to the black waiter in the room, I immediately assumed she was going to complain about the black family next to her. Maybe she thought they were seated too close to her? I don’t know what I thought. But I prepared myself to verbally defend them, if she was going to complain. But, she didn’t. She just asked for a peach cobbler.
Lord forgive me. I try not to be too hard on myself when it comes to this, but it’s difficult.
Before leaving, this young white lady approached me, tapped me on the arm, and said,
” I just wanted to say that I love your shirt.”
“Oh, thank you so much!” I exclaimed, stunned!
“I’m a huge supporter…” she said, her eyes telling me that she wanted to say, “I totally think the police are racist and no one understands that racism still exists!”
“Oh, wow. Thanks! I really appreciate that!”
She sat back down with her family and we waved at each other before I left.
While walking back to my mom’s car, several thoughts ran through my mind. Wow. First of all, wow. This young white lady came over to me, pointed out my BLM shirt, and verbally agreed with me. But, she was doing so much more than offering up a compliment. She stood by me. She saw me. She acknowledged my struggle and the struggle of my PoC brothers and sisters. She became an advocate, standing alongside me, a young black Latina woman.
Thank You, Jesus, for showing me that there are people who will stand by me, even when I don’t expect them to. Forgive me, Lord, for stereotyping white southerners and expecting the worst from them. They surprise me every day.